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Osage Newspaper Account of JBK’s 1914 Trip to Europe

What a treat to find a newspaper account of my grandfather’s trip to Europe in the summer of 1914. He was planning a sightseeing trip abroad during the summer before his senior year in college but World War I intervened.

True to his positive nature, Joe Kingsbury made the best of a bad situation. Four days after he and two friends landed in Germany, the trains stopped running and they were stranded in Nuremberg for almost two weeks. The following account, which he sent to his hometown newspaper after his safe return to the United States in late August, speaks for itself.

This article appeared in column one on the front page of the Mitchell County Press & Osage Journal on September 9, 1914 and continued on page 5, columns 1 and 2. The title read:

Osager’s Experience Marooned in Germany 

Joe Kingsbury Spent Interesting Six Weeks in German Empire

He, With Others, Arrested Four Times Mistaken for Russian Spies,
But Finally Landed in U.S.A.

Washington, DC
September 2, 1914

Dear Clinton: (my guess is that JBK wrote the letter to the Editor, H.C. Hill and that the C stands for Clinton) 

Perhaps the best way to thank all those people who have so kindly inquired about me, and to let everybody know that I am back in the United States (and glad of it), will be through a few lines in the “Press.” I arrived in New York Saturday noon, August 29th on the Olympic, after a rather exciting six weeks abroad. Of course I did not expect to run into any wars when I left, and the sight-seeing part of the trip was interrupted rather abruptly on August 2nd.  I didn’t visit quite all the places I expected to, but, on the other hand, I saw a great deal that I never expected to see, and the trip was far from being a disappointment. In fact, I wouldn’t take anything for my experiences. I left New York, with two Washington boys, H.B. Elgin and J.B. Leslie, on July 20th, on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (now at the bottom of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa). Fifteen years ago “Big Bill” as this ship was called, was thought to be the last word in ship building, both in size and speed, and it was still one of the fast ones, making the trip to Bremen in exactly seven days. We had a splendid trip across, with 1500 Germans, whom I suppose were going home to fight for the Fatherland, though they didn’t tell us anything about it. On the 25th we learned by wireless that Austria and Servia were at war, but we didn’t anticipate any trouble from that. We landed at Bremen, July 28th and spent the next four days seeing Berlin, with Bruce Lybarger for a guide. Bruce is the same except for a German moustache and a good German vocabulary, which helped us considerably in seeing and understanding what we saw of Berlin. The morning after our departure he expected leave for a little summer resort on the Baltic but I doubt he got there, or was even able to leave Berlin. On the afternoon that we left Berlin, the Kaiser came past our hotel on his way to the palace from his residence in Potsdam, and it seemed to us as though the people greeted him a little more enthusiastically than they usually would. But still we suspected nothing and went on to Dresden, where we spent one of the pleasantest days of our trip in that beautiful city.

As we rode past the Barracks in a sightseeing automobile that afternoon we heard songs and cheers and other expressions of pleasure from the thousands of officers and men quartered there. One of them came running out to the car and with a pleased look on his face told us that Russia had acceded to the Kaiser’s demand, had withdrawn her troops from the Austrian border, and the trouble was over. Everyone was glad. This and many other incidents I noted, make me positive that the German people did not want or expect war. But when war came, no one could be more loyal and patriotic than they. There is not the look of reckless bravery on the faces of the German soldiers that there is on the American soldiers’, nor the longing for ‘something doing’. They realize better than anyone, the seriousness of their business. Three hours later we learned that the report of a Russian withdrawal was false and war would follow immediately. The young German clerk who told us this also advised us that Germany would not be a good place for tourists anymore, so we immediately stopped spending our money, went to our hotel and packed, and were ready to start for Switzerland early the next morning – Sunday.

Here our first trouble occurred. The hotel refused to take our American Express cheques (the only time they were refused) and we had barely enough cash to pay our bill and buy three tickets for Nuremberg, in south central Germany. We reached there after an all day’s ride in a baggage-passenger car, right behind the engine. An hour and a half after our arrival, all trains were turned over to the army, and all tourists in Germany stayed right where they were.

We were in Nuremberg fifteen days. We did not leave for two reasons; first, there was no better place to go, and second, no trains were running. We learned from the American Consul of a good, inexpensive place to live, Schneider’s Hotel, and composed ourselves for a stay of several months, until the relief ships, which the Consul reported were being chartered by the United States government, should arrive to bring us home. The Germans gave us to understand that no ships of any flag were now crossing the ocean and our only way of getting home was to be sent for.

Our stay in Nuremberg we shall always look back on with pleasure, in spite of some experiences that at the time were rather annoying. The evening of our arrival Elgin and I were sitting in our room while Leslie had gone out to get a cigar. We watched several officers, followed by a mob of people, come up the narrow street and enter our hotel. Presently they knocked on our door and when we let them in, they accused us of sending a telegram. We said we had not, and explained (in bad German) who we were and what we were there for, showing all the papers we had to prove that we were not Russian spies, but Americans. After marching up and down in front of our room and trying different interpreters on us, they finally left, and pretty soon Leslie came in with the explanation. He had seen a telegram posted in a window regarding North German Lloyd ships, and not knowing any German, he attempted to copy it to show us. An officer armed to the teeth grabbed him and led him off to a guardhouse where they searched him and questioned him for over an hour. Meanwhile they sent officers to guard us, whom, I suppose they thought were accomplices. I don’t blame them at all for being so suspicious, for they did catch a number of Russian spies in Nuremberg, but it began to be monotonous when we were arrested the next day while waiting for a street car, and the day after that for watching a man leading a string of horses in a market place, and the next day for trying to buy some English books in a bookstore. Each time they took us to the guardhouse and made us show our return steamer tickets, traveller’s cheques, government pass cards, YMCA membership cards, and anything else we had that was ‘made in America.’

The Consul finally gave us temporary passports, and the burgemaster ordered no more arrests except on the strongest suspicions, and forbade the crowd to follow an officer with a prisoner. That was the worst thing about being arrested. We didn’t mind going to jail so much, after the first time, but the people, especially the kids, would follow us yelling ‘spion’ (spy). When we came out of the guardhouse they would still be waiting for us, and although we had convinced the officers that we were alright we couldn’t make the kids think so. Nuremberg is a charming place, built about the thirteenth century and apparently it hasn’t changed much since. We found all kinds of places that we had studied about in mediaeval history the year before in school, and some of the most picturesque eating places imaginable, the memory of which will always remain, both for their quaintness and for the delicious food. So that while we were disappointed at not seeing Switzerland and France and England, our extended stay in Nuremberg gave us really a good knowledge of one place, some German atmosphere, and good practice in speaking German. When we had become somewhat more proficient in the latter, raised small moustaches, and had our heads clipped, we ceased to attract much attention, and if they did take us for Englishmen we showed them the American flag which never failed to command respect and courtesy. On August 17th, through the kindness of the railroad commandant and the efforts of some Americans in Nuremberg, among them Alex H. Revell of Chicago, a special train full of Americans left Nuremberg for Amsterdam. We decided our chances of getting on the American relief ships would be better if we were nearer the coast, so we took the opportunity to get out of Germany.

That train ride through the heart of Germany was the most interesting I ever took or perhaps ever will take. We traveled only about 15 miles an hour so it was like an observation train, and although the journey lasted forty hours (with no sleeping cars) it was never tiresome. Almost all signs of peaceful industry had closed down. Only women and children were at work in the fields; all the men have gone to war. Instead of brakemen, yard men and mechanics along the track, there stood men with guns, one every hundred feet, and at every bridge and culvert three or four. Frequently we had to take the siding while a train loaded with troops went by on their way to the French frontier or a hospital train would come back from the front full of wounded men.

At nearly every town there squads of soldiers and raw recruits getting whipped into shape to swell Germany’s fighting force to eleven million men. One company of infantry marching along a country road stopped, wheeled, and saluted our train as it went by, with American flags waving from many windows. At many stations, American flags were hung out in our honor, and Red Cross nurses served us with coffee, ‘kase brod,’ lemonade, fresh Rhine wine, etc. and threw flowers in the windows. The people of Germany feel that America is their best and truest friend, and their kindness and faith in us could not fail to touch every heart. So many false reports had appeared in French and German newspapers (which I know from personal experience) that the Germans are very much worried, and everyone that I talked to begged me when I got back to America, to tell the truth about Germany. I would be extremely ungrateful if I did not try to tell something of the German side. There is no doubt that the newspaper accounts, which come mostly from Paris or London, tell only one side of the story. When we reached Amsterdam we were greatly surprised to find the Dutch and English ships were running, and we were fortunate enough to get second class cabins on the “Olympic” the largest ship now carrying passengers, three sailing days behind her schedule from Liverpool. That gave us just time to see something of  Amsterdam and a little of London, and Sunday morning, August 23rd we steamed out of Liverpool, the wireless down, all portholes covered with brown paper, windows painted black, and rugs hung over them; never a light showing at night. We sighted British cruisers nearly every day, and were always in touch with them by wireless, which was put up the second day out. The trip home was also a great experience; we heard so many tales of thrilling experiences that we were ashamed to tell of our tame little adventures. Nearly every passenger aboard had lost some baggage somewhere in Europe, all who were touring in cars had had them confiscated by the governments and we decided that we had come out of the trouble about as easily and fortunately as anyone.

The Statue of Liberty surely never looked as good as it did last Saturday morning to the two thousand refugees on the Olympic. Every man, woman and child on board, I think, inwardly gave thanks for the return to the land of peace, and prayed that war may never come upon us. It is a tremendous effort to boil my story down to this size, there is so much to tell about, but these are a very few of the bare facts, with no attempt to be partisan or draw a moral. Don’t forget to send me a paper. Best wishes to yourself and family and all Osage friends.

Sincerely yours,
Joe Kingsbury

 


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Lillian Stillion – Lorion Stillion and Aunt Ella Kingsbury Whitmore

Continuing from my post on Friday January 27, 2017, the search to find out about Aunt Ella and her adopted daughter Lillian Whitmore, soon yielded a bountiful harvest of news from the West Union Argo Gazette and the Fayette County Union.

Once I had Lillian Whitmore’s married name – STILLION – it didn’t take long to learn a bit more about her and to learn that she and her husband, Reverend Jasper Clyde Stillion, had one son, Lorion Stillion, born in 1915. This announcement appeared in the West Union Argo Gazette on August 18, 1915.lorionstillion-birth-wuag-18aug1915

I am always happy when someone I’m searching has an unusual name. When that happens a Google search often yields great results and I was not disappointed. This 1987 article from the L.A. Times suggests that  Lorion inherited some of his mother’s musical talent. It also suggests that Lorion and his wife Ardell did not have any children. Further searching indicates that sad conclusion is correct.

Filling in what I wanted to know about Aunt Ella’s life, I found this In Memoriam article in the June 10, 1948 issue of the Fayette County Union, written by her nephew Frank Kingsbury of Osage.

ellakwhitmore-memoriam

Such a lovely tribute to a woman who was too modest to write of her own accomplishments in the family history she wrote in 1941 – Salt of the Earth.

The most surprising news of this article is that her daughter Lillian Stillion preceded her in death, by a couple of months. I haven’t searched for Lillian Stillion’s obituary so I’ll have to work on that in my next research session.

There were 59 “hits” in my search for First Name: Lillian; Last Name:Whitmore. From these articles I’ve gotten to know Aunt Ella’s adopted daughter. Let me share her story.

Lillian was an accomplished violinist at an early age. Her name even appeared in 1977 obituary for someone who mentioned her as his first violin teacher.

She grew up in West Union, Iowa  but attended Cedar Valley Seminary for one year,  graduating on June 8, 1910. She returned to West Union, with her grandmother Mrs. J.B. Kingsbury on June 14, 1910 (Hannah was visiting her daughters Mary in Fayette and Ella in West Union). On June 29, 1910, Lillian took a position as a stenographer at the State Bank of West Union. She worked there until September 1911 when she left to attend a ladies seminary in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. Probably this one.

When Lillian’s parents moved to California in 1912, she went with them. She graduated from Redlands College in Redlands California in June 1913. Many years later, her cousin Forrest Kingsbury, retired to Redlands College after his long career in the Psychology Department of University of Chicago. Another interesting coincidence!

Lillian Whitmore married Jasper Clyde Stillion sometime after June 1913 and before August  1915. Interestingly, the census for 1910 shows that Jasper Clyde Stillion was a science teacher at Cedar Valley Seminary so that must have been where their paths first crossed. He was a lodger in the home of  Mrs. Polly Holliday.

Jasper and Lillian spent most of their married life in California. Including some time at Biola (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) which was located at Hope and 6th Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Coincidentally, 65 years later, I worked at Arco Tower, within a block of the Bible Institute. The original Bible Institute building was demolished in 1988 after damage it sustained in a 1987 earthquake made it too costly to renovate. But the iconic “Jesus Saves” sign in 7-foot tall neon red letters that once graced the rooftop of its dormitory, remains atop the trendy Ace Hotel in downtown LA today.

Here’s a 2010 blog post about the history of the “Jesus Saves” sign.

I am  fascinating by what I call “overlapping ancestor tracks.” What are the odds that a girl who grew up in Richmond, Virginia would end up in Los Angeles 30 years later, living within a few miles of where her unknown cousin – Lorion Stillion – was living at the time. Or that a few years later, she would be house hunting in the same neighborhood where her great great aunt lived 50 years earlier? That’s crazy!

This is a 2015 picture of the house at 311 Wild Rose Avenue, Monrovia California. This was Aunt Ella’s address in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 census reports. I noticed in previous research that Aunt Ella took in boarders but I didn’t appreciate the significance of the ones listed in the 1940 census until yesterday – Jasper Stillion and his wife Lillian!

311wildroseavenue-2015

Aunt Ella’s house sold for $1,027,500 in 2015, so I doubt I’ll be moving in anytime soon but oh how I’d love to at least walk through it!

 


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Why I Read Old Newspapers – REALLY Old Newspapers!

One of my favorite ways to relieve stress is to immerse myself in newspaper searches for my ancestors. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately because work is especially stressful right now with no end in sight. I stopped reading the daily paper years ago and I certainly have no intention of resuming that habit any time soon. In today’s news climate?!? Talk about stress!

Today I learned of a great resource for  online newspapers thanks to my daily dose of genealogical wisdom from Genea-musings, which shared a link to The Ancestor Hunt. I learn a lot from other genealogists who so willingly share resources and information. Thank-you!

So wine glass in hand (the other way I relieve stress) I settled in for my favorite Friday night activity – scanning historic newspapers – but this time armed with a valuable new resource. The link on The Ancestor Hunt identifies online newspapers in each state and provides links to local libraries, some of which have free searchable databases. So in no time at all I was perusing the late 1800s, early 1900s papers from the counties in Iowa where my Kingsbury ancestors lived.

I found interesting facts about the Kingsbury family of Osage involving tax assessments, real estate transfers and Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury being chosen as a petit juror in 1888 and a grand juror in 1889. Nothing too earthshattering but I like to add bits and pieces of the family puzzle that way.

And I always enjoy the advertisements and interesting quotes and quips that make it just plain fun to read old newspapers. Like this one from the 1936 St. Ansgar Enterprise.

st-ansgar-funnyad-1936

My grandfather’s father, Wayland Briggs Kingsbury, was the only son born to Joseph and Hannah Kingsbury. His three sisters, all born in the mid 1800s on the newly pioneered plains of Iowa, were Mary, Ella and Emma. Much of what I know about those members of the Kingsbury family is because of a self-published family history written my Ella at the request of her daughter Lillian.

When people in the Kingsbury family talk about the family “blue book” they usually mean the genealogy compiled and published by my great uncle Forrest A. Kingsbury in 1958.

But this is my favorite “blue book” of Kingsbury family history

SaltoftheEarth.1.27.15

It’s my favorite because Ella describes her childhood and writes about the day-to-day things that she and her siblings did while growing up on the Iowa frontier in the mid- 1800s. It is such a treasure to know what the family was like; that her father was a good carpenter, that he they enjoyed singing together as a family, that they stopped farming and moved into town where her father started a hardware store in Oelwein and then West Union (or vice versa) before moving to Osage.

But the thing that always bothered me about Aunt Ella’s book was that she never talked about her own family. From what I can tell, she never had any children of her own. She was 36 when she married Frank Y Whitmore, a widower, in December 1893. From the US Census in 1900, I knew that the family included a 10-year old adopted daughter (identified as such) named Lillian, who was born in New York. Both of Lillian’s parents were born in Norway.

A few years ago I spent many futile hours trying to track down information on Lillian Whitmore. She was born in 1890, the same year as my grandfather, but I’ve never seen her name in any of his writings. I was reading The Orphan Train at the time so I wondered if that could be how Lillian came to live with Ella and Frank. But mostly I wondered if I could track down any of Lillian’s descendants so I could learn more about Aunt Ella. Maybe they have extra copies of Salt of the Earth. Maybe they have more family pictures. Maybe they have stories to share. Maybe they will read this and contact me.

Ella Kingsbury Whitmore also fascinates me because she lived in Monrovia, California. (But why did she move from Iowa to Monrovia?) Monrovia is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, east of LA, but not too far from Alhambra and San Marino where Rick and I lived from 1985 to 1997. We looked at houses in Monrovia. Maybe I drove past the house Aunt Ella lived in and didn’t even know it. Maybe we almost made an offer on a house that was on her street! I definitely recognize the name of the street she lived on in 1940 – Wildrose Avenue.

So nearing the end of my search for the night I decided to browse the West Union Iowa papers for mid-November 1918.  A search for “Frank Whitmore” had turned up a few interesting articles, but a search for Lillian Whitmore came up blank. But just because you don’t get a hit doesn’t mean there’s not something there – you just have to decide how much time you’re willing to spend searching.

I knew from records on Ancestry.com that Frank Whitmore died in Monrovia, CA on November 10, 1918. Maybe if I got lucky I could find his obituary and learn more about his family. And sure enough on the front page of the West Union Argo Gazette from November 13, 1918 I found this:

 

frankwhitmore-obit-1918

The article also provided much needed detail about the timing of Frank Whitmore’s marriages, his career and his family. It confirmed that he was survived by his three children, his wife and an adopted daughter. But better than all that – the article provided Lillian Whitmore’s married name – Mrs. J.C. Stillion.

mrs-jcstillion-1918

My search didn’t end there, but this post will. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story!